By DR. IBRAHIM NEGM
Excerpted from- WISE Up- Knowledge ends Extremism 2017
Terrorists blatantly manipulate the religion of Islam in an attempt to justify acts of violence and terror. When we deconstruct their warped logic and the unauthentic sources used to justify their desire for power, control, and bloodshed, we see that the ideologies of these groups contain some serious flaws.
The first ideological flaw is related to the terror groups’ abuses against the Qur’an and Prophetic reports. Through their total ignorance of the tools needed to properly comprehend the Qur’an or Hadith, the rules of inference and the objectives of Islamic law and its principles, terrorist groups take Qur’anic verses and the Prophet’s words out of context and imbue them with the worst of meanings. As a result, the true and peaceful words of God and the Prophet are replaced by the terrorists’ distorted rhetoric of violence and fear. They deliberately ignore the qualifying and essential parts of the Qur’anic verses in favor of their misquoted sayings and deviant interpretations.
Terrorist groups disregard any and every Qur’anic verse that does not fit their false claims or justify their unilateral war against those who do not share their violent worldview. They have turned their backs on the Qur’anic concept of diversity, human brotherhood, and peaceful relations between Muslims and non-Muslims, as seen in the Qur’anic verse, “O Mankind. We created you from a single pair of a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes that you may know each other. Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted with all things” (49:13).
These groups reject the Qur’an’s emphasis on embracing diversity and entertaining differences as established principles for dealing with people from varying religious, cultural, or racial backgrounds. Instead, terrorist groups insist that anyone who rejects their distorted ideology is a legitimate target and must be killed. This mind-set stands in complete contradiction to the clear Qur’anic message in which God says, “If anyone kills a person, it is as if he kills all mankind while if anyone saves a life it is as if he saves the lives of all mankind” (5:32).
The second ideological flaw is found in their narrow concept of jihad, which they have restricted to mean combat and slaughter, and their distorted representation that it has been required by God. However, in its true meaning jihad refers to the human endeavor of striving to improve the individual and society, and to bring life closer to the divine model. But for violent extremists, physical jihad is an end in itself. In its true form, the goal of jihad is guidance. But the violent extremists have distorted this concept, along with countless others, to such an extent that their actions repel others from God’s religion instead of guiding them to it. Thus, violent extremists are deviating far from the true goal of jihadin their illegitimate declaration of war.
And finally, the third ideological flaw is in their false belief that the terrorists who are killed in the line of “duty” will be received as martyrs and rewarded in paradise. Their delusional understanding of the concept of martyrdom goes against Islamic law’s definition of what it means to be a martyr, regardless of whether they 1) considered their act to be a form of jihad, 2) had sincere intentions, or 3) were acting out of ignorance. “Good” intentions never justify forbidden acts, nor is it permissible to kill the innocent in Islam. Thus 9/11, 7/7, or any other similarly horrendous acts are simply acts of terrorism that have nothing to do with jihad.
From these three ideological flaws we can deduce that the terrorist groups are confusing the noble and honest form of jihad, which may be waged to fend off aggression and establish justice, with their ruthless acts of slaughter and indiscriminate killing of innocent individuals. This stands in sharp contrast to the rulings of Islamic jurisprudence that emphasize the importance of upholding justice and morality during armed struggle. Moreover, their distorted interpretations of core Islamic concepts, such as hijrahand takfir, have allowed them to hijack all of Islam and claim to represent the “true” Islam.
There must be an intellectual response to deviant ideologies. This requires Muslim scholars to deconstruct the terrorists’ false claims and warped understanding of Qur’anic exegesis. Muslims are the ones who should reclaim their right to define their religion, according to the Qur’an and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), They should never leave it to the pundits specializing in extremism (be they Muslim or non-Muslim). We Muslims know that Islam is a religion of peace and mercy. In fact, the first prophetic saying that is taught to any student of Islam is the Hadith “Those who show mercy are shown mercy by the All-Merciful. Show mercy to those who are on earth and the One in the heavens will show mercy to you.”
It is very important for us to recognize that not a single one of these violent extremists has received a proper Islamic education at academic centers of Islamic learning—a basic requirement for anyone who makes such authoritative claims. This leaves them without the proper knowledge of the principles of Islamic jurisprudence (usul al-fiqh) and the methodology necessary to derive legitimate laws. Moreover, the alleged claim by violent extremists that they attempt to follow the path of the early Muslims is erroneous. The early Muslims were pioneers in writing down the guiding maxims and in developing a scientific methodology that enabled them to differentiate between the primary overarching issues and the secondary debatable ones in the Qur’anic message. The basic principles of Islamic jurisprudence were codified by the early Muslim pioneers during the eighth and ninth centuries, and established a set precedent for how to expand and develop the law. These principles established that the four roots of Islamic law may be found in the Qur’an, Sunnah, ijma (consensus of scholars), and qiyas (ruling by analogy). Moreover, secondary sources of laws have been developed and refined over time, and consist of juristic preferences (istihsan), laws of the previous prophets (shar’u man qablana), extended analogy (maslaha mursala), customs (urf), and sayings of a companion (qawl al-sahabi). It is only after receiving a proper education in Islamic jurisprudence that an individual will possess the authority to speak on behalf of the Law.
In Islam, there are two forms of law, the first and most important being Shari’ah, or Divine Law. Shari’ah consists of God’s laws as revealed in the Qur’an and Sunnah, which are immutable. Fiqh, on the other hand, refers to the human understanding of Shari’ah and is implemented by the rulings or religious edicts (fatwa) of Muslim jurists. Fiqh is the product of the independent legal reasoning (ijtihad) of Islamic jurists (Ulema) from their scholarly interpretation of the Qur’an and Sunnah. And it is only Muslim jurists, upon receiving genuine and extensive Islamic education, who possess the authority to issue and implement a fatwa.
We may point to any number of declarations posing as fatwas from extremists and terrorists as examples of how grave the consequences are of not following the historical Islamic example of differentiating between those with scholarly standing and authority and those without. In recent years, unqualified and illegitimate personalities have exploited technological means to proclaim themselves Islamic scholars and leaders, and have issued opinions to justify everything from attacking churches, exercising violence, and denigrating women. True Islamic scholarship and leadership stands firmly against such exploitative positions, which are merely politics in the guise of religion.
Thus it has been incumbent on Egypt’s Dar al-Iftaa at Al-Azhar University to rise to this global threat and to wage an intellectual war to battle against the ill beliefs, warped understandings, and misinterpretations of scriptural texts. As the leading institute in the Islamic world that issues fatwas, Dar al-Iftaa rejects violent extremists’ flagrant de-contextualization, misappropriation, and misuse of the Holy Qur’an and prophetic traditions.
Dar al-Iftaa has taken responsibility for deconstructing the intellectual flaws of terrorists in a variety of ways. To combat their deviant ideological flaws, we publish and disseminate information about the true teachings of Islam in media such as electronic publications, social media, and books and articles, and we share best practices by networking with scholars, Muslim leaders, and practitioners around the world. Additionally, Dar al-Iftaa has established partnerships with Muslim leaders in the West to provide a unified voice against extremists’ hijacking of Islam. Furthermore, Dar al-Iftaa has established an observatory that monitors and deconstructs extremists’ fatwas and issues many counter fatwas. In doing so, Dar al-Iftaa is working to reveal the true authentic teachings of the Islamic faith and to emphasize that the extremists’ ideologies are aberrations from the authentic teachings of Islam—both in letter and spirit.